[EPIC POP] Whereas debut albums often begin with a bang, sophomore records tend to start with a statement. Lost Lander hit the ground running in 2012 with its excellent first album, DRRT, pairing orchestral rock with rich vocal harmonies and a Sufjan Stevens-like dose of wide-eyed curiosity. The quartet's follow-up, Medallion, shifts markedly toward pop, trading melodic meandering for marching synthesizers, and loose daydreaming for crisp arrangements. Opener "Gemini" is a straight-up hit, but it's several leagues away from Lost Lander circa three years ago. The swelling synth lines, colossal builds and anthemic kick drum proclaim a changed band.
Former Menomena member Brent Knopf, who plays with Lost Lander frontman Matt Sheehy in Ramona Falls, produced both records, and compared with its predecessor, Medallion sounds less like a Menomena project, which is perhaps the point. Lost Lander is sculpting its own sound, and while still built around keys, communal vocals, chamber elements and Sheehy's electric guitar, the band has embraced a certain bounciness. Tracks like "SunBurns," with its war chants, funky guitar loops and driving synths, feel perfectly prepped for both the arena and the FM dial. "Feed the Fever," is a bona fide dance-rock number, offering that familiar one-two punch of big synths and disco drumming. Yet, just when you think Lost Lander has entered pop-rock complacency, it fights the urge with tracks like "Flinch" and "Never Go Easy," which challenge the listener with imaginative melodic fluidity and tactful layering.
Medallion represents a move toward the center that's not too overwhelming or unexpected, especially given the group's virtually guaranteed rise in popularity. I just can't help combing through the record for songs like "Trailer Tracks," which manage to push toward new territory without giving up some of the original sound that won over Portland's ears in the first place.
SEE IT: Lost Lander plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Radiation City Duo and Sama Dams, on Friday, Feb. 27. 9 pm. $12. 21+.